Moviemakers will need to refine their approach to zombie outbreaks in the wake of Covid-19 as audiences become better educated about the spread of infectious disease, according to Year 11 ASMS student Aronne Maclean.

Aronne has completed a study of accuracy in the portrayal of virus outbreaks in movies. He is one of a number of ASMS students who have spent the past week designing and conducting their own learning challenges on the topic, “Containing disease in a hyperconnected world.” Other students have compared human responses to Covid-19 with the Plague, coded their own virus simulator, investigated the impact of anxiety and depression on immune system function and written a rap song to promote handwashing.

Aronne studied six zombie movies, mapping the modelling of each outbreak and human responses and comparing these to the current pandemic.

“Our real-life response to virus outbreak has been much faster and more effective than in zombie films,” Aronne said. “The movies I studied were slow to implement lockdown and quarantine measures. In real life we did this much more quickly. Movies have a tendency to quarantine people in groups rather than isolating at home, which raises ethical considerations when people become infected.”

“Where movies provided numbers and dates I used maths to model the events. Their virus outbreaks spread much faster than in real life, and in some cases the search for a cure didn’t begin until billions of people had been infected. Cures were then developed within a few days to create positive outcomes which aren’t realistic based on what we now know about the time it takes to develop a vaccine.”

Aronne was required to incorporate intercultural understanding in his learning challenge. He explored the origins of zombies in Haitian culture and studied films from different countries and cultures.

“Asian films take a more research-based response to zombie outbreaks, treating the virus as a medical emergency,” he said. “American films respond with military action, sending in armies rather than research teams. In real life we’ve demonstrated care for our citizens rather than go in all guns blazing.”

Aronne acknowledged realism doesn’t necessarily make good entertainment. “Cinema is all about fast-paced action rather than a multiple-year story about how people locked themselves down and couldn’t find a cure,” he said. “While we are all now better educated about virus outbreaks, people will always enjoy the escapism of zombie films. Whether Covid-19 brings a reality check for blockbuster movie producers and we start seeing social distancing in scripts remains to be seen.”

ASMS Principal Jayne Heath said the Covid-19 challenges were aligned with the school’s focus on supporting students to design their own learning.

“We have been so encouraged by the way our students have adapted to the challenges of living through a pandemic,” Ms Heath said.

“They have embraced the opportunity to apply science and mathematics to Covid-19 and place their learning in context to what is happening in the world around them. The ASMS encourages our students to explore their passions, be curious and immerse themselves in real-world challenges. We’re always looking for young people to join our school who are interested in science and mathematics and who want to have fun as they learn.”